My Dear Friend,
Blessings to you on this beautiful Sunday! This Memorial Day weekend, as we remember those who gave their lives for our freedom, I pray that you are well and that you remain safe. May you know that the Lord God loves you, I love you, and I long to see you. I pray that today’s encouragement will inspire us to take good care of ourselves, both in body and soul.
Love in Christ Jesus,
“Exercise yourself in godliness. For physical exercise is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7b-8
Walking in the Fresh Air, the Sunshine, and the Word of God
Some of my dear friends have been expressing concern that due to the closure of the gyms, they are losing muscle tone and are becoming physically weaker. Of even greater concern is the lack of opportunity to engage in aerobic exercise to maintain cardiovascular health.
Of course, these are valid concerns. And because the Bible calls the believer’s body “the temple of the Holy Spirit,” maintaining the health of that temple is tantamount to God’s concern for the care and maintenance of the temple built for worship in Biblical times. Ministers from the Tribe of Levi were commissioned to keep the temple in good repair. How much more would God desire for us to lovingly care for our bodies – our sacred temples – even now?
So we see that it is wise – indeed Biblical – to be concerned with the physical health of our bodies and to keep them as healthy and strong as possible. That is why many healthcare professionals are recommending that we find alternative ways for maintaining muscular and cardiovascular health. (And as my doctor friend has reminded me, “plenty of fresh air and sunshine.”)
In today’s New Testament reading, the Apostle Paul encourages us to definitely go to the gym! (He uses the Greek verb gymnazo, which means “to train” or “to exercise.”)
But knowing the context is always important. Here, Paul is referring to those who put so much emphasis on physical and mental training – even to the point of over-exertion and self-deprivation – that there was little time for them to attend to their souls. So in drawing a contrast between the long-term benefits of physical and spiritual training or exercise, his purpose is to remind us that there is a much more important part of our beings than the physical – the part of us that will live forever.
The Apostle says that while there is some profit to getting exercise for our bodies, the benefit of this is only for the temporary, present life. On the other hand, if we continue to train or exercise ourselves in godliness, not only will it benefit us in this life, but also in the life to come.
In his writings, the Apostle Paul often used analogies that his readers could easily identify from their own culture. Accordingly, to his Greek-speaking audience he liked to use the Olympic Games as a metaphor, as he did when speaking of “fighting the good fight,” “finishing the race,” and “receiving the crown” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24; 2 Timothy 4:7). In these analogies, Paul always made it clear that every victory that was in store for them required training at what the Greeks called the gymnasium, and it was never easy. It required a lot of striving in order to reach the finish line.
So Paul’s point is that while there is definitely some profit in exercising our bodies for good physical health, we should be careful to engage in the arduous spiritual training and exercise that “holds promise,” both in this present life, and the life to come.
People who “work out” regularly know that in order to gain strength, it is never a piece of cake. The Apostle Paul, total realist that he was, knew that reaching the finish line was physically, emotionally, and spiritually challenging. At this present time, we are, without a doubt, living in one of the most challenging times in our lives. But God’s purpose in giving us the written Word is to give us hope for the future in such seemingly bleak times as these. That is why the Apostle tells us in verse ten, “For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”
Looking beyond the present circumstance, do you have your hope set on the living God? If so, what better time is there than now to make a new commitment to spiritual training and exercise?
May the Lord continue to strengthen you as you continue to train and exercise in the things of God.